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   Chapter 37

Damsel[ed] No Rescue Required By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 12601

Updated: 2017-12-12 12:04


I awake to blackness.

Impenetrable blackness, so deep and dark it stays put no matter how hard I blink. Cold seeps through my muscles and clothes, my knees curled to my chest, my entire body racked with tremors.

I close my eyes and groan, rolling my head back and feeling the click of a perpetual crick in my neck. I can“t remember what happened exactly, but I had dreams. They weren“t mine, I don“t think, foggy and drenched in blood as they were. They“re all faded now, all but a man“s wail, so terrible, so shaky and loud and trembling with grief even now tears sting the back of my eyes. "Kill me. Kill me if you must, but let her go. We have children..."





I“m a part of it, at least, my parents probably are. It“s enough to make my head spin, and my head already hurts. It“s all there. This terrible history, buried just between the lines. Just out of thought. When us kids played superhero on the street, dreaming of arch nemeses and dying deaths of glory, to save Starlight, to save the world, I never thought all that much about how their deaths happened, or why. Now I want to kick child me in the face.

I run my fingers through my hair, strands of it firm with caked-on dry blood. I touch the raised ridge on my face, where the blood flakes and a sort of grease oozes onto my claws. I recoil. I want a shower to wash off all the filth and decay. Maybe I“d be able to think better if I weren“t lying here bloody in my own stench.

I lift my head and—pow!—smack it on a low ceiling. Yelping, I duck back down. "Owl?" I steady my voice, willing it not to shake. I used to be good at this, hiding how I feel. Blood trickles down my lip, a stream pooling into my hands, sticky and hot. The pain is something I hardly feel or think about as I reach out and touch metal. It“s cold and smooth under my hands, rounded. I stretch and my toes touch something cold.

I don“t know where I am, but I“m beginning to have a terrible hunch.

"Owl!" There“s a knot in my stomach that grows bigger and bigger as I grab a fistful of cloth. It scratches my skin like old lace, itchy and rough. My knuckles knock against metal. "This isn“t funny." Beads of sweat tremble on my brow, my face so hot I can feel my pulse beat behind my skin. I yank the sheet back in fistfuls, black cotton balled up and spilling over my fingers. Light bursts through the bars with an almost blinding radiance. I blink, eyes squeezed shut for long seconds. I drop the sheet. Call me a wimp, a wuss, but I don“t want to see where Owl put me, or more appropriately, what Owl put me in. The woman is terrible. A no good, very bad person who likes to torture me—though “torture“ is almost disrespectfully harsh in this context, considering the screams on loop in the back of my head.

Children. We have children.

No, the heroes are the tortured ones, not me. I“m just dramatic. I gulp, my throat so dry I almost choke. As if the light itself will blind me if I take in too much at once, I pry each eye open as slowly as one can open their eyes without gouging them out first.

I look out between steel bars. "You..." I don“t know who I“m talking to, not really, since Owl isn“t here. Maybe I“m just talking to say something, to end the screaming and groans and begs for mercy playing on endless loop in the back of my head, just out of reach of the off switch. "You“re terrible. Awful. What do you even do, Owl? Why did you do this to me, to my friends, to all those superheroes?"

And in a horrible turn of events, I start to laugh.

She caged me. Like an animal, she put me in a cage. I try to sit up again and my forehead smacks into the ceiling again. Of course, she thinks I“m an animal. It makes sense to throw me in here

y, my stomach growling for food. At last, there comes a click. I jerk into a sitting position, legs crossed underneath me, hands cupped in my lap. My head smacks the ceiling, but that“s okay. As it is, my pain cuts deep enough that another layer on top doesn“t add to it so much. "Owl?"

Keys jiggle. The door slams shut. I see her boots before I see her, and in a daze, I realize she“s changed. Brown suede boots with ripped seams and faded toes. Jeans, a deep blue. I waft in a breath and she smells heavenly (the place, not the girl). Like food. Like flour and raisins and... "Cookies? Tell me you kept your side of the bargain and brought me food."

She leans down and crouches in front of the cage. I wonder if she“s tired. I can“t tell. Her face is too blank, too perfect. To my dismay, she does not carry a tray of cookies. She carries a cardboard box. A small one, with “Weight-Watchers“ printed on the front. The diet stuff is barely food, but it“s edible. Technically. I grip the bars and lean forward. Amuse her. She sees me as an animal, a pet. I have to get on her good side, make her trust me. But I“m hungry and thirsty and cramped and she did terrible, terrible things that I can just vaguely remember from Jupiter“s memories that make me want to punch her in the face.

"Comfy?" she asks. I see a hint of a smirk on her lips, but I“m not so sure if it“s actually there or if I just want it to be.

I blink a few times and shake my head. "Really, Owl? A cage? What a stock supervillain move. I thought you were unique. Can I eat now?"

She smiles, and this, this I know is real. The villain almost beams. "Well, I thought you“d be more comfortable in one, as a project, I mean."

I lean back against the bars. "Can I eat now?" She“s taunting me, about being an experiment and a cat and all. Well, I have a lot of things to be ashamed of, but that isn“t one of them.

Owl laces her hands behind her head. And it occurs to me how relaxed she is, sitting, smiling. A trickle of fear crawls down my neck.

"Depends," she says, and light shines off her eye patch. "If you can answer a few questions."

"Fire away, lady."

She shakes the box, and all I can think about is food, food, Oh, Lordy Lordy, food. My mouth waters. I try to hide the desperation ratcheting up inside me, but she knows. It“s clear she knows. That“s probably why she left me here, to starve. Her smile tightens into a wicked little smirk, and then, she speaks.

"What do you know about a girl named Heaven Brooks?"

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